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CIA can't authenticate alleged al Qaeda tape


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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- After a technical analysis, the CIA cannot determine whether a videotape obtained by ABC News in Pakistan featuring a man claiming to be affiliated with al Qaeda is authentic, a U.S. intelligence official said Thursday.

"We have been unable to verify the tape's authenticity," the official said.

Portions of the 75-minute tape were aired Thursday evening by ABC News, which said it obtained the tape from a source known to have Taliban and al Qaeda contacts in the tribal regions of Pakistan.

ABC said it paid the source $500 in transportation fees.

A U.S. official said there were "real questions about its authenticity."

By that, the official said, he meant that it was not clear whether the tape was prepared by someone affiliated with al Qaeda and taking orders from its leaders, or whether it was a hoax.

With the presidential election just days away, officials are wary of a possible trick by an impostor.

"Without being able to authenticate it, it's just some guy talking on a tape," the U.S. intelligence official said.

On the tape, a man calling himself "Azzam the American" threatens terror attacks "at any moment," delivering the message in English. His face is covered with a headdress and he holds a rifle.

"People of America: I remind you of the weighty words of our leaders, Sheikh Osama bin Laden and Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, that what took place on September 11th was but the opening salvo of the global war on America," he says. "And that, Allah willing, the magnitude and ferocity of what is coming your way will make you forget all about September 11th."

A U.S. government official said the tape did not mention any means, mode or place of an attack.

Sources said copies of the tape were given to President Bush, Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller, former CIA Director George Tenet and nine other officials mentioned by name on the tape.

A U.S. intelligence official said the voice on the tape "does not match anyone we know of" who has been identified as being affiliated with al Qaeda.

The official said the tape was made in recent months, since it referred to the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, the same sex-marriage controversy in Massachusetts, and the report of the 9/11 commission.

The tape included a graphic indicating it was produced by the "Sahab Production Committee," which is the same as that seen on a number of authenticated al Qaeda tapes.

CNN's David Ensor, Kelli Arena, Jeanne Meserve and Jonathan Wald contributed to this report.


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